The Joint Economic Committee published the first report in 1985 documenting the fact that working Americans were losing ground in relation to those citizens at the top of the economic ladder. One would think that the Committee’s findings would have been a wake-up call for America. Perhaps the conclusions reached came as a surprise to most of our nation’s leaders at that time. That’s possible because the incomes of all American families had grown during the period from World War II up until the early 1980s. It had become something to expect each year.
Significantly, those at the bottom of the income scale had done better than those at the top. Increasingly in those days, the United States had become a country in which every person had the chance of owning a small piece of the American dream. At least that was the popular perception at the time. Working men and women had been almost universally respected by the leaders of both political parties.
During that time in our nation’s history, what a person achieved in life was not dictated by his social status, nor by which side of the track she happened to be born on. Many believed that trend was the wave of the future. Those in the middle class in America were respected. But things have certainly changed and today the middle class is pretty much ignored by many persons in positions of authority, both in government and in Corporate America.
Since the Committee’s report referred to above was released almost 29 years ago, the disparity between the working class and the super-rich has grown dramatically. Divisions between those who do the work and those who reap the rewards have become far more pronounced. The lives of the extreme well-to-do in this country almost seem to take place at a different time and space from the reality experienced by the great majority of Americans. Needless to say, and most unfortunately, the income gap between the super-rich and the rest of the American people is growing at an alarming pace.
Today, the middle class and working folks as a whole are hurting badly. The middle class is getting smaller and the poor category is increasing daily. In my opinion, something must be done to right the economic ship in this country. I believe two factors have contributed greatly to our nation’s severe economic problems.
The president and members of Congress must take steps necessary to protect all American workers. Keeping manufacturing jobs at home is an absolute necessity. Trade agreements that have cost hundreds of thousands of jobs and made our nation’s trade deficits soar must be carefully scrutinized. I also believe raising the minimum wage would be a step in the right direction and is something that is badly needed. Not only is the increase badly needed, it’s the right thing to do from a moral perspective. Raising the minimum wage will make an important contribution toward reversing an ugly reality that is hurting our nation in many ways.
Despite strong opposition from those on the extreme right, even the recent Congressional Budget Office report on the minimum wage supports the conclusion that the increase is needed. A recent poll revealed that 70 percent of Americans believe the federal government should increase the minimum wage to $10. This poll was conducted by Selser & Co., and cited by Bloomberg on March 12. The results even showed that 45 percent of Republicans supported the increase to 10 percent. Congress should – for the good of all Americans – act on this issue without delay.
Source: Scott Lilly
Center for American Progress
1333 H Street NW
Washington, DC 20005
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